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Reading this article may save your life one day.
Trail Running is a fantastic way to disconnect with the world and all of it's worries. There's no doubt that spending time in nature is good for the soul as well as the body. However, Trail Running is inherently more dangerous than Road Running and getting lost can quickly escalate from a confusing annoyance to a life-threatening disaster.
Here's a quick 10 step plan if you ever find your self lost while out running trails:
1. Stay Calm
This can definitely be easier said than done but making decisions or movements while in a highly emotional state can quickly lead you to being far more lost than you already are. Take a few minutes to breath deeply, survey your situation and formulate a logical plan for returning to safety.
2. Retrace Your Steps
The sooner you realize that you're lost, the easier this will be. If you think you will recognize features that you've passed, retrace your steps. If you don't remember the way you came, don't guess, you could end up more lost.
3. Use Your GPS
It's great to disconnect from technology when trail running but you should always take a phone as it could be a lifesaving tool. Use your GPS to navigate your way back. If you are really lost and don't recognize anything then head towards any large trails, roads or carparks where you are more likely to find people who can help.
4. Use Your Compass
This is a key tool in your TrailSurvivor Kit. If your phone dies or your GPS doesn't work for whatever reason, a compass is enough to help you find your way back. Not only will a compass stop you wandering around in circles, wasting critical energy and daylight, it can be used as a navigation tool.
If you know which way you headed, simply head back in the opposite direction. For example if you know you headed North, returning in a Southerly direction will at least take you back in the right general direction. You do this by choosing features in the distance such as hilltops, large trees and heading for those rather than watching your compass. Heading towards something in the distance allows you to choose sensible paths avoid walking through creeks or of cliff edges.
5. Don't Take a Shortcut
Don't be tempted to take a shortcut back, even if it is getting dark and you are in a hurry. You are more likely to get seriously lost and it dramatically reduces the odds of you finding help or help finding you.
6. Don't Separate Your Group
If you're in a group when you get lost, the good news is the experience is going to be slightly less stressful. Stick together to pool your resources and problem solving skills. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is if one or more members of the group are unable to move due to an injury, in this case be sure to make a note of recognizable features nearby so you can trace your way back once help is found. The second exception is covered in point 7.
7. Use Short-Distance Scouting Parties
If you are in a group you can send people out to look for your last known location. The key here is to make sure you stay in visual or voice contact. This allows you to cover more ground without getting separated or becoming more lost than you already are.
8. Take an Inventory of Your Supplies
Hopefully you won't be lost for long but plan for the worst, work out how you will ration supplies and resist the urge to consume them too quickly.
9. Be Mindful of Your Personal Climate
Remaining cool/warm and dry is critical. Apply sunscreen and try to keep out of the sun as much as possible. If it is cold then rubbing body parts to create friction is a great way to warm them up and don't be shy about huddling with your group for extra warmth.
10. Seek Professional Rescue
If you cannot find your way to safety then you can call the local park rangers or "000". If you are unable to call "000" for whatever reason you can try to alert other people that you need assistance by using your whistle to blow 3 short blasts, 3 long blasts and then 3 short blasts again. Keep repeating this throughout your navigation attempts, just because you can't see anyone it doesn't mean there are not people nearby who can help you.